Monday, July 25, 2011

life beyond gluten

One year ago, I got the phone call that started me down this gluten-free adventure.  It was one of those moments I wasn’t sure whether to breathe a sigh of relief, or cry.  I tested positive for celiac disease, and was relieved to know why my stomach was so upset, why I was sooo tired.  But, I didn’t know the slightest about celiac disease, let alone how I would manage to cut out the 4 basic food groups of the American diet?  
You know…bread, pasta, bagels, donuts…

why kick the gluten?
Basically, my body could not break down the proteins in wheat, so every time I ate a piece of homemade whole wheat bread (that was supposed to be so good for me), it wreaked havoc on my insides.  My thyroid problems were probably caused by celiac.  A doc at the Cleveland Clinic told me 1 in 3 people who are hypothyroid have celiac!  [A ton of research has been done on the connection of the two.]

The only cure for celiac is to eliminate wheat, barley and rye from your diet, completely.   Once you try to do that, you realize gluten is in *everything*, from BBQ sauce to cold cuts to cookie sprinkles.  No wonder so many people are suffering from gluten overload.  Studies say 1 in 133 Americans have celiac, but only 5% are diagnosed.  The reason it is so difficult to diagnose is because there are over 300 possible symptoms! 

how to kick the gluten?
I am a firm believer that if you can do 3 weeks gluten-free, you can be gluten-free for life.  The first 3 weeks were the hardest:  figuring out what not to eatlearning what is okay, craving a crusty slice of bread.  But when I started to see how much better I felt, it was so worth it!  I lived most of my life in a fog, thinking everyone else was too.  I didn’t know better, until going completely GF.  I felt like I woke up for the first time in my life! 

It has been a challenge, mainly because I have kept our family’s grocery budget to $500/month, for the 5 of us.  Gluten-free food is usually double the cost of regular.  So, we have to be creative.  I try out lots of recipes.  We keep our meals simple, and rarely eat out.  But, it’s always such a treat to find a gluten-free replica that tastes just as good, if not better. 

what to do without gluten?
I just compiled a list of recipes we could do GF, and kept it at that for a few weeks, then added as I could.  It was something like:
Tuesday: curry chicken, rice, broccoli
Wednesday: stirfry, edamame
Thursday: rice and beans, chips and salsa
Friday: grilled chicken, potatoes, seasonal veggie
Saturday: pizza night!
Sunday: baked potatoes with toppings, salad
Breakfast: hard-boiled eggs, sconesbaked oatmeal, pancakes, breakfast casserole, smoothies, yogurt and berries, French toast, granola (with GF oats), bacon!!
Lunch: sandwiches on Udi’s bread, quesadillaswraps, taco salad with tortilla chips, BLT salad with GF croutons, pizzas on brown rice tortillas, mac and cheese, leftover soup from monday…

You might feel like you’re cooking all the time at first.  There’s no more “order a pizza” or “swing by a drive thru” option, because cross-contamination is fierce after you’ve been GF for awhile, and have a gluten sensitivity.  But, it is so. very. worth. it!
Just thinking back to what things were like a year ago before I knew what was wrong... Unbuckling Jude out of the car seat at the movie theatre on free-movie-Wednesdays, I remember last year, praying I could make it through the movie without having to take 3 boys with me to the bathroom because my stomach was in knots.  So often, I have thought how there’s no way we could have done this house renovation before saying goodbye to gluten. 

I’d just encourage anyone out there not to ignore the warning signs (all 300 of them...)  The risk of untreated celiac is disturbing, and why suffer from gluten sensitivity?  Just give it 3 weeks.  Buy frozen GF meals and make PBJ on Udi’s, if you have to (throw in a salad too :)  Taking care of yourself is so very important.  And, there is life beyond gluten!

Also, I know this is already weeks-worth of thoughts, but I read an interesting article in "Outside" magazine.  You can read it here.
Other GF link love:

I guess that's all for now.  I've had some little spies, who are just asking to get wrestled and then to pack some boxes with me :)


  1. Is the test for Celiac disease just a blood test? or how does that work? I'm wondering if my mom has that. I'm wondering if it is hereditary....I'm going to have to research more:)

  2. Sara - such a helpful post! Answered several questions I had. Makes me wonder if we could go GF! :) and I will need to chk and see if my thyroid issues might be related to something more... Props to you on making it a whole year strong!

  3. Kristine - Yes, just a blood test. They aren't always accurate - can give false negatives or positives. But since I had the signs and tested positive, they had me go GF, and getting better confirmed it. Different drs. may test different ways. It is hereditary - they've told me 1 in 3 of our boys prob. have it, and while their blood tests all came back negative, they said it may not be full-blown yet. So tricky, it is.

    Ang - Thank you. I've had people asking about it, and wanted to compile some thoughts. Glad to hear it was helpful. If I can, I know anyone can! I would look into it if there are warning signs - just because after feeling the difference, I realize how much wheat can keep a person down :)

  4. Do you already use Amazon Subscribe and Save for G-free items?
    We get Pamela's baking/pancake mix, bread mix and tinkyada noodles that way. It is much cheaper than in the stores and allows me to make pancakes, pizza, waffles, biscuits, cornbread, PIE!! ect.
    I just love reading your blog! Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Kel - I've used amazon for brown rice flour, but lately have been buying that from a bulk food store for less. I'll have to check the tinkyada noodles from there...I usually get them at Trader Joe's for $2/lb, but it may be awhile until I get to Chicago, Cleveland or Indy for that. Thanks for the tips, and as always, the encouragement :)